Lilja Memorial Trust beautifies Iron Mountain Chapin Pit area

IRON MOUNTAIN – An area around the Chapin Pit in Iron Mountain resembled a garbage dump before efforts began to create a viewing and picnic area back in 2012.

Now, the members of the August Lilja Memorial Trust have created a nice place for residents and visitors to view the Chapin Pit.

This gazebo-picnic area is located at the northwest side of the East Chapin Pit on a piece of city property near Hardee’s Restaurant. The group was looking way to pay tribute to the mining that took place at the Chapin Pit as well as a place for people to enjoy the scenery and have a picnic.

According to Marsha Bonicatto, chairperson of the Lilja Trust Fund committee, the area is also a lead-in for a trail that will eventually end at the bat cave located on top of Millie Hill.

“This time of year, the view is beautiful with blossoming and budding trees and wild flowers. Our committee encourages everyone to stop and take a look and maybe spend some time reading the descriptive trail signs,” Bonicatto said.

Although the work is not finished, she added, it’s a big change from the ‘trash dump’ they found when the renovation work began.

In addition to Bonicatto, the committee includes Ruth Larson and Al Mendini.

She said that all the hard work and money invested in the area is finally paying off.

“The area is looking so much better than when we started and is being used by many people for viewing and picnicking,” she said.

The project is being funded entirely by the Lilja Trust Fund, with no tax dollars being spent on it.

The group has received some help from the city of Iron Mountain Public Works Department.

The August Lilja Memorial Trust Fund was established in 1999 by a generous donation of Madge Lilja in memory of her husband.

The committee in charge of overseeing the fund includes three members from three local churches – Trinity United Methodist, First Covenant ad First Lutheran.

This was set up by Madge Lilja and her niece in lower Michigan has served as a consultant.

Since the fund was established, more than $400,000 has been given to help beautify the city of Iron Mountain.

Projects include the restoration of the fountain at Cemetery Park, statue on the south side of the Dickinson County Library, several landscaping enhancements at the Iron Mountain Public Schools including concrete containers and benches; maple trees on the playground at the Eastside park, entrance area at City Park; lights for the Northside ballfield, and now the cleanup and landscaping at the Chapin Pit.

Bonicatto noted that the Lilja Trust was also a major contributor to the Millie Hill Bat Cave walking trail.

“This bequeath from Madge Lilja is truly special and I am honored to be a part of the ongoing work,” she said.

The gazebo, designed by Kevin Trevillian of Coleman Engineering, is to replicate a mine shaft entrance. Sketches and old photos provided by Bonicatto were used in the process to design it. Smith Metal Structures Inc. of Iron Mountain was contracted to build the gazebo.

The goal was to make the area an attraction for the city and keep with the feel and heritage of the area since the Chapin Pit was once a mine.

The Lilja Fund Committee has been working in this area for the past several years to make it more attractive.

The work has included planting flowers and treating the area for weed control.

Although the trust committee has been working at the Chapin Pit area for a number of years now, they are open to taking suggestion from Iron Mountain residents for future projects.

Written ideas can be left at the city offices, 501S. Stephenson Ave. in Iron Mountain or with City Manager Jordan Stanchina.

Linda Lobeck’s e-mail address is